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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Chinese targeted by PNG rioters
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Smoke billowing over Chinatown in Honiara - 2006
Chinese businesses in the Solomons were targeted in 2006
Police in Papua New Guinea are hunting looters in the troubled Western Highlands who have ransacked Chinese-owned businesses.

Warning shots were fired at those involved in "chaotic" disturbances in Mount Hagen, PNG's third largest city.

A small number of shops and warehouses were burnt to the ground, and many left standing were targeted by looters.

The unrest is evidence of growing resentment of Asian immigrants in the impoverished South Pacific country.

The mayhem lasted for about three hours and brought Mount Hagen to a standstill.

The police used teargas and fired warning shots as they battled to regain control.

The gangs of looters hit back with a barrage of stones. Even schoolchildren were reportedly seen running away with clothing, food and kitchenware.

The hunt is now on for those responsible.

Bitter jealousy

The victims in all of this have mostly been Asian immigrants in the Chinatown district of the city.

In recent years there has been an influx of tens of thousands of Chinese settlers into Papua New Guinea.

Map

It is a cultural shift that many locals have found hard to accept.

The Asians are not always welcome. Their perceived wealth in a poor country has ignited feelings of resentment and bitter jealousy.

It is the not the first time that Chinese traders have been singled out in the South Pacific.

Last year, there were similar problems in the Solomon Islands and in the capital of Tonga, Nuku'alofa.

In Nuku'alofa, nearly 30 Chinese-owned stores were fire-bombed or looted in disturbances in November.

The Chinatown area of Honiara in the Solomon Islands suffered the same fate, where rioting reduced the thriving commercial centre to a mass of twisted metal and burnt-out buildings.

The trouble forced hundreds of migrants to abandon their dreams of a new life in the Pacific and return home to China virtually empty-handed.


SEE ALSO
Chinese rivals grapple for Pacific
04 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Riots highlight Chinese tensions
21 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Solomons reel from riots
21 Apr 06 |  In Pictures
Tonga's king vows more democracy
23 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Tonga riots aftermath
18 Nov 06 |  In Pictures
Country profile: Papua New Guinea
14 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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